I have been blogging about Nebraska’s outdoors, mostly about fish and fishing, for several years now, long enough to know that certain seasonal topics are repeated year after year. When we have ice, I am going to be blogging about ice fishing. I love to ice-fish and you can count on me blogging about it. That also means that every year I am going to blog about ice safety! I hope folks do not think I am being some kind of “nanny” or “kill joy” by doing that. I L-O-V-E ice fishing and will be on the ice as soon as it is safe and remain ice-fishing as long as it is safe. Last winter I ice-fished Nebraska waters from mid-December all the way into early March. Looks like I will be doing that again this year, Y-E-S-S-S-S-SSSSSSS!
I have heard reports of folks venturing onto the ice in parts of the state already, so I know you can find some safe ice now. But, it is still early and we have a lot of waters or portions of waters that are NOT safe yet. Anytime, every time, you walk onto the ice, you have to be sure it is safe. There are some ice-safety tools you should have. . . .
Any boy scout will tell you to “be prepared”. I am not going to recommend that you intentionally go out and fall through the ice, but these crazy guys have some really good advice to demonstrate. Yes, they are “nuts”, but I love “nuts” and there is some really good information here. . . .
If that is all too goofy for you, if you want something more serious and official, then take the time to watch this video, this gentleman is THE expert. . . .
I know, I know, this is the internet and no one wants to take the time to watch any of those videos, let alone all of them. Take the time, it could save your life.
In a lifetime of ice fishing, I have never fallen through. I have needed boots to get on and off the ice a few times, and I have pushed it right up to the limits of being safe. But, I have walked away or gotten off when I knew it was no longer safe no matter how hot the bite was. So, I cannot tell you that I have fallen through just to see what it is like. However, I can tell you of a cold, windy day, trying to pull a mink set out of a creek when the stake finally came loose and I lost my balance and went all the way into ice cold water–that cold water shock mentioned in those videos is exactly what happens, a person hyperventilates, it takes your breath away. For that reason, I believe a life jacket is a good idea; it will keep your head above water during that initial shock and panic. They also make outerwear specifically for ice-fishing that floats. Arctic Armor is what I have; Striker Ice also makes floating bibs and parkas and I have heard that other brands may be on the market soon.
My ice picks are homemade and that is easy to DIY. Commercial versions also are on the market, HT Enterprises Polar Ice Picks , Frabill Ice Picks , Eagle Claw Ice Safety Picks , Clam Floating Ice Picks , Rapala Ice Safety Spikes . To continue with the theme of “being prepared”, even if you do not fall through the ice, may I suggest that sometime you lay down on the ice and pull yourself along with your safety picks?
It would also be a really good idea to have an extra set of dry clothes with you, probably back in the vehicle. If the worse happens and you go through, when you get out you are going to need dry clothes ASAP.
Right up until this November cold snap, we had relatively mild weather and relatively warm water temperatures. It takes more than a few nights below freezing to make enough ice to be safe. The heat budgets of different water bodies also vary a lot with smaller, shallower waters cooling and freezing faster than larger, deeper waters. Throw in the wind which always blows in Nebraska, some snow or other precipitation and fluctuating temperatures and it can take a lot longer to make safe ice than one might think. If you go back and check out this old blog post, there is a chart there that will give you an idea of how long it might take to make safe ice, The Ice Man Cometh.
Be patient, wait for it.